Late afternoon sun slices through the tall redwoods and pines, sprinkling the footpath with a warm, lazy cheetah print that stretches and yawns and lounges; a well-fed, aloof cat with twitching ears, tuned towards the dusty oncoming footfalls of my DC skate shoes.
There is a hush inside the meditation hall. Visitors peruse the spines along the bookshelf, or let their eyes wander from floor to ceiling. No one speaks. The silence is holy. We collectively hold our breath to sustain the quiet reverence.
Enlarged, framed photos of the Dalai Lama hang on the north wall, above tiny tea lights in brass votives. Rich fabrics drape from the ceiling to all four corners of the room.
At the south end of the hall an employee or volunteer or monk-in-training enters and, without preamble,
begins shouting at the whole room.
He makes pointed eye contact with me for some reason.
“Whoever keeps bumping this table with the lotus bowls needs to be more careful! When water spills I have to empty and refill them all over again, and I’ve already done it twice today! Pay attention to where you’re walking!”
His voice reverberates off the walls like a singing bowl. I haven’t seen the lotus bowls up close yet, but suddenly I’m dying to come near, to lean over and breathe across the surface tension of each glass container brimming with the source of all life.
The monk trainee, or monk-ee as I will think of him for years to come, sizzles with anger - an anger that seems displaced in the cheerful, sun-splashed sanctuary.
A floorboard creaks.
Everyone in the room cuts their eyes to one another, silently agreeing, “What’s that guy’s problem?”
The monk-ee, recognizing his outburst is a little over the top, audibly inhales and exhales. Perhaps he counts to ten.
And then he shouts, “I’m sorry for overreacting! I have been awake since five this morning! I’m very tired right now, and I do not appreciate having to fill these bowls again!”
Yeah, guy, we get it.